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Right To Play Canada – One year ago, the Syrian conflict went from bad to worse when airstrikes forced families to flee their homes in search of safety. More than half of the 4 million individuals who fled Syria were under the age of 18. As the crisis intensified, so did our work with children in refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon.

Today, our efforts continue. In Jordan, we’re working with 1,575 teachers and coaches to bring education and hope to 57,000 children and youth. We will be bringing our programs to 26,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon by 2018. Our work in the Middle East is designed to foster friendship between participants; regardless of their age, gender, ability or religious beliefs. In our programs, Syrian, Lebanese, Jordanian, and Palestinian children play together, building friendships and learning a fundamental truth: we have much more in common than differences.

If we want peace to become reality, we must intervene with programs that emphasize fair play, teamwork, respect, and acceptance.

I want to introduce you to 25 year-old Israa, a young woman who has lived her entire life inside the Beddawa Camp in Lebanon. Growing up in the camp was not easy. She’s seen firsthand what a childhood living in cramped quarters and surrounded by the aftermath of conflict looks like. It’s barely a childhood at all.

Israa began volunteering with Right To Play when she was 19 and it changed her life. Soon, she was helping to lead our play-based program, transforming the lives of children in the camp. She was inspired to start a book club for youth. It might seem insignificant, but it’s anything but. 

“The club reminds us of the importance of reading,” explains Israa. “And by reading, we’re exchanging our Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian cultures openly with one another—the building blocks towards acceptance.”

Read Israa’s full story on our website. As our world becomes more uncertain, it’s vital that we support young people like her. It will be the Israa’s of the world who forge a brighter future. Together, we must never give up on them.


Lori Smith
National Director, Right To Play Canada